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Published on April 05, 2016

A Century of Compassion: St. Vincent’s Riverside Turns 100

By Riverside Avondale Preservation

Jacksonville may have looked different a century ago, but it was a city on the rise. Little more than a decade removed from the Great Fire of 1901 that ravaged nearly 150 city blocks, Jacksonville had bounced back from the disaster and was booming.

Yet while the city grew and grew, it still had suboptimal healthcare options. In 1910, Jacksonville only had two moderately sized hospitals to serve its more than 70,000 inhabitants. A series of letters, however, would change the face of healthcare in Northeast Florida for the next 100 years.

Michael Maher, a pastor with the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Jacksonville, penned a letter to the Daughters of Charity in December 1910 asking them to bring their congregation to the area in an effort to improve the city’s healthcare. The Daughters had established a reputation for quality care from their work in Jacksonville during the Spanish-American War.

In May 1916, they responded by taking over the failing DeSoto Sanitorium and renamed it St. Vincent’s Hospital. This was the start of our health system. In 1919, St. Vincent’s opened its nursing school, giving hopeful caretakers a place to educate themselves among the area’s best teachers. In 1928, St. Vincent’s moved from its original Springfield location to its current home in Riverside, where it expanded to 200 beds.

The small group of Daughters that founded the hospital worked furiously during the opening year, treating more than 600 patients. From those humble beginnings, St. Vincent’s guiding Mission of compassionate care for all was born.

The five remaining Daughters officially left St. Vincent’s Riverside in 2014, but the Mission they instilled a century ago lives on today. Though their Riverside campus has grown from its humble beginning at the DeSoto Sanitorium to what is now a large health system, St. Vincent’s robust family of associates and physicians still go above and beyond to embody the image of compassionate care the Daughters brought to Jacksonville 100 years ago.

100 Year Celebrations

Throughout the year, several events and ceremonies will be held to celebrate St. Vincent’s 100th birthday. In February, a new statue was erected in front of the Riverside campus. The statue, commissioned by retired USN Capt. Robert L. Rasmussen, depicts a young Daughter of Charity passing a crucifix to a physician, symbolizing passing on the Mission of service to the underserved.

100 years is a significant accomplishment, but St. Vincent’s is also looking towards a bright future. Their annual employee birthday picnic in May will take on a new meaning this year as St. Vincent’s reflects on and celebrates its 100th anniversary.